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  • Writer's pictureLucy Felmingham, MA

A Brief History of the Stoa of Eumenes on the Acropolis of Athens

What is the Stoa of Eumenes?

The Stoa of Eumenes is a monumental Hellenistic colonnade on the Acropolis that was donated to Athens by the King of Pergamon, Eumenes II, and built around 160 BC.

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Stoa of Eumenes History

During the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, Pergamon (a Greek city in north-west Asia Minor, under Persian control until Alexander the Great) was the capital of the Attalid dynasty. At this time, Athens and Pergamon enjoyed a close relationship: the two cities were allied in the conflict with King Philip V of Macedon and the Attalids also endeavoured to portray themselves as patrons of Greek culture. They strove to make Pergamon a ‘second Athens’, modelling the Acropolis of Pergamon on the Athenian one. They also sent gifts to Greek cultural sites, including Athens. Dedications to the city included the Stoa of Attalos in the Agora, sculptures on the Acropolis, and the monumental Stoa of Eumenes.

This stoa, used as both a shelter and promenade, was approximately 160 metres in length and had two storeys, both with inner and outer colonnades. The two floors were linked by external staircases at either end of the structure. Although some materials – including blue-hued marble from Mount Hymettus – came from nearby quarries, it’s believed that many parts of the structure were prefabricated using craftsmen and materials (including marble) from parts of the Kingdom of Pergamon. The Stoa of Attalos in the Agora shares many features with the Stoa of Eumenes and, since its remains were in a better state of repair when rediscovered in the 19th century, gives a sense of what its near-contemporary building would have looked like. The arched north retaining wall (which can be seen today and which supports the peripatos – the pathway around the Acropolis – behind it) also contains the remains of a fountain fed by a natural spring further up the slope.

The ancient Roman writer Vitruvius tells us that the long colonnade served as a space for theatre rehearsals and also a welcome shelter from the rain for the bustling crowds of theatregoers. When the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (the large Roman theatre) was built nearby in the 2nd century AD, access was added to the west end of the Stoa of Eumenes to serve as a link between the Odeon and the Sanctuary of Dionysus.

The stoa was still in use early in the 3rd century. However, materials from the building were used in the construction of the 3rd-century-AD Valerian Wall (one of the fortifications built to guard against barbarian attacks) and further damage was likely done by the invasion of the Heruli, an early Germanic tribe. The ruins of the stoa were rediscovered in the late 19th century and subsequently used as a silk factory as late as the 1950s.

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